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Compliance: the elephant in the room for financial services online

Mark Sherwin Chief Strategy Officer


In our digital finance report Integration or Isolation? and subsequent digital finance forum we showed a range of great examples for social engagement in financial service organisations. This included the @RBS_Economics insight tweets, @SkandiaTeamGBR’s digital curation of its own content and other relevant information sources and @Zopa’s really personal customer service approach. We also looked at Fidelity’s proactive Facebook page and how some firms such as Investec are starting to maintain their LinkedIn company pages.

At the forum the biggest single issue shared with us during the roundtables was the challenge of compliance. Feedback from the event stressed how much marketers were looking to Precedent and similar digital agencies to answer their compliance challenges. Clearly we can’t alone answer what are often complex regulatory challenges. Keen to take on the challenge we proposed a roundtable event under Chatham House Rules to get marketers and compliance professionals together to explore these issues and hopefully find some positive recommendations.

Unsurprisingly the interest from marketers was high, but we didn’t simply want a therapy session. We asked marketers to approach their compliance teams, invite someone along to join in the debate, share their expertise and identify creative solutions. The result? Not a single compliance professional willing to engage, most ironically citing ‘compliance reasons’!

This is a desperately sad state of affairs. Whilst compliance professionals are clearly the gate keepers who must by definition be risk adverse, can there really be risks in simply discussing the issues, exploring the opportunities and building a shared understanding and consensus with the marketeers? Whilst this stubborn and frankly uncooperative attitude persists amongst compliance professionals, opportunities will be missed.

Those few who are willing to grasp the nettle and work together will inevitably achieve competitive advantage, and grab market-share. With innovative providers emerging ranging from Zopa, to Nutmeg and Borro, incumbents who believe the right answer is simply to bury their heads in the sand may look back and realise that they were exacerbating risk, not managing it.